When people say Happy Holidays to you, do you want to scream and run away or are you actually having a jolly good time? Did you know the holiday season commonly brings on a sense of complete overwhelm and a rise in pressure? That increase in tension then causes an uptick in depression and anxiety, making that merry whatever a real stress fest. So how can you avoid the holiday overwhelm? Today we are gonna explore how to protect your mental health during the holidays and possibly even enjoy them, maybe.
Why do the holidays make us feel bad?
There are many reasons why the holiday season is a point of stress and uneasiness for many people. Some are obvious, like figuring out how you’re going to afford to buy everyone gifts, while others, such as increased feelings of isolation, may be something that’s not even on your radar.
- High expectations
- Wanting perfection
Ways to Protect your Mental Health During the Holidays
There are many ways you can prevent or at least lessen the stress you experience during the holidays. Knowing your triggers and having a plan in place for dealing with or avoiding them altogether can make a big difference and go a long way to creating a pleasant rather than unpleasant season.
Now let’s explore some ways you can manage the holidays better.
Try to set realistic expectations.
We often get our hopes up or have too high of expectations for what we think the holidays should look like. To avoid feeling let down or like you didn’t meet the expectations of others(real or imagined), try to set goals that you know can be attained. If your kids usually wake you up at 5 am on Christmas morning, don’t expect that this year, they’ll let you sleep in and start breakfast before you open gifts, this is just setting yourself up for a frustrating morning.
Do a self-check-in often
A self-check-in is simply taking a few quiet minutes to ask yourself a few questions.
- How am I feeling today?
- Is there anything coming up that is making me feel stressed and what can I do to lessen that stress?
- What do I need right now?
- Am I taking time out for myself so I can recharge?
- Who can I ask for help with ________?
If possible, do a self-check-in daily, but if you can’t manage it every day, then do it at least once a week. This is a good practice not just during the holidays but anytime.
Don’t stretch yourself too thin
The holidays aren’t the time to push yourself to do something you know will be nearly impossible to accomplish. Allow yourself to say no. You can’t do everything. The sooner you accept that, the happier you will be.
Figure out ahead of time how much time you need to devote to the things you are already planning, then determine any extra time you have leftover. That way when someone asks you if you can do something for them, you will know exactly if you have time to do it or not. If not, say no and don’t make excuses or feel bad about it.
Set a budget
This is a tough one for many people. It’s so fun to buy gifts and holiday treats that it is easy to overspend. Then that festive holiday translates into a broke January where you might be swimming in debt, and that sucks.
Before the holidays arrive, create a budget for yourself. Be sure to include gifts, decorations, treats, and holiday meals. It’s important to make sure your budget is realistic and doesn’t allow you to overspend.
A great way to ensure you don’t spend too much is to use cash envelopes. Once that cash is gone, you’re done spending, easy peasy.
Analyze situations ahead of time
Take a look at your planner, go through upcoming engagements to determine areas that might be stressful for you. Targeting those potential areas can help you make a plan that will help you diffuse the situation or avoid it completely.
Keep a gratitude journal
It’s always a good idea to remind yourself of the things you have to be thankful for in your life. It’s easy to get caught up in negativity and feeling sorry for yourself.
Write in a journal or jot down a quick note in your planner each day of something you are grateful for. This will help you to see all the good elements in your life. Think about anything you may take for granted, like having a car that runs or a house to live in and remember that not everyone can say that. Fussing about not getting that new lipgloss you wanted seems a lot less important when we remind ourselves what really matters. Need to grab yourself a journal, these softbound notebooks from Erin Condren are perfect for journaling!
Make a bucket list
Bucket lists are a great way to plan for and keep track of fun things you want to do for the holidays. When making your list, be sure to add in plenty of activities that are free or cost very little. This list is meant to help you stay organized and remind you to have fun, not break the bank.
Here are a few ideas to add to your list:
- Drink hot cocoa, stir with a candy cane
- Watch a holiday movie
- Camp out near the tree
- Go on a walk and enjoy either the fall colors or holiday lights
- Read a holiday book
- Make a holiday craft
- Decorate your yard
Limit your holiday spirit intake
Although you might think that having alcoholic beverages helps you relax and have more fun, the truth of the matter is that drinking too much or too often during the holidays can actually increase your stress levels.
Remember first and foremost that alcohol is a depressant, enough said. But too, by lowering your inhibitions, you may say or do things you might not have said if sober. If you’re in a stressful situation, like dinner with your extended family, having a drink might make you give your opinionated aunt Becky a piece of your mind, which definitely won’t make the holidays better for anyone.
Spend time with loved ones
The holidays are a great time to spend more time with the people in your life that make you happy. Be sure to schedule in some extra visits or calls to these people so you can keep your mood in a good place and enjoy yourself more often.
Don’t forget to take some time out for yourself during this busy time. You probably need it now more than ever. Schedule some me-time a few times a week to give your mind and body a much-needed recharge.
You can even make it festive by using holiday scented candles or bath bombs, you can also relax to some classic holiday music.
It’s okay to treat yourself, to well, a treat during the holidays. I’m not suggesting you buy yourself a new car, just a pumpkin scone and a coffee from your favorite coffee shop. A small treat goes a long way to lifting your spirits and relieving some stress.
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for some help. Even if you think you can do it on your own, it might actually be more fun to have someone help you. This could mean just be having someone there to bounce ideas off of, which can go a long way to helping you get your task completed.
It’s important to remember that just because it’s the holiday season and everyone is telling you to be merry, doesn’t mean you will be, and that’s perfectly okay. Your mental health doesn’t decide that it’ll take a break simply because it’s the holidays, so keep working at it.
The best way to tackle holiday stress is to make a plan, plain and simple. Follow the steps mentioned above to help you make the most of the season and protect your mental health during the holidays.
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